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The next COVID-19 relief package should include these critical consumer protections
Millions of people and small businesses in the United States are experiencing tremendous financial distress because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment is skyrocketing and families are struggling to put food on the table. Congress and the administration need to enact broad-based, efficient, and effective relief that goes far beyond the CARES Act to protect people’s homes, cars, bank accounts, income, and benefits so that they can weather this crisis. Consumer Action joined nearly 100 consumer, civil rights, community and other public interest groups weigh in on recommendations for Congress' next stimulus package.

Proposed Senate bill fails to Protect Student Borrowers during pandemic
Consumer Action joined 55 other organizations in submitting a letter to Senate leadership in opposition to the Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act. This proposed legislation falls far short of what young Americans need and should expect from their elected leaders. Rather than extend vital support during a dual public health and economic crisis, this bill would leave millions of student loan borrowers without protections while failing to extend and expand a repayment suspension put in place by the CARES Act. Doing so would only make the burden of student debt heavier, leaving many young Americans financially insecure.

More than 100 non-profit groups support bill that would require corporations to disclose important data to address potential profit shifting
A coalition of more than 100 non-profit groups called on Reps. Waters and McHenry to consider country-by-country reporting in the Disclosure of Tax Havens and Offshoring Act (H.R. 5933). The bill would require large, publicly-traded corporations to disclose key financial information (e.g. profits, revenues, taxes, number of employees, etc.) on a country-by-country basis to better inform taxpayers, investors, policymakers, academics, and other stakeholders and ensure that we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic on the path to sustainable and equitable economy.

Now is not the time to rush autonomous vehicle legislation through Congress
During this time of national emergency, Congress should be focusing on ensuring the health and financial well-being of Americans, not rushing forward with inadequate driverless vehicle legislation that puts the interests of the auto industry and tech companies ahead of people’s safety. Yet, House Republicans have recently called for the revival of an autonomous vehicle bill (arguing that self-driving vehicles can be part of the Covid-19 response). In a letter to Congress, coalition advocates urged legislative leaders to reject attempts to attach driverless car legislation to a must-pass relief bills, including any packages that address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Any continued efforts to pass driverless vehicle legislation at this critical juncture would be a mistake.

Congress: Pass a clean budget for FY2021
Advocates called on Congress to pass an upcoming federal budget that funds the things that Americans care about, not undo essential consumer and environmental safeguards through policy riders. Policy riders are attached to legislation and rarely have anything to do with the bill. In fact, most riders are handouts to big corporations and special favors for interest groups that could not become law on their own merits. As Congress prepares the federal budget for fiscal year 2021, no appropriations titles, package of bills, or continuing resolutions should pass if they contain poison pill policy riders that go against the public interest, including policies that ensure safe and healthy food, restrain Wall Street abuses, provide access to justice and fair housing, and guarantee access to safe healthcare.

OCC proposal could greenlight predatory lending schemes
Consumer Action joined a coalition of more than 100 organizations in opposing a proposed rule from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that would facilitate predatory loans. Specifically, the proposed rule would make it easier for payday and other high-cost lenders to use banks as a fig leaf to offer predatory loans at interest rates of 100 percent APR or higher that are prohibited under state rate cap laws. This scheme is known as “rent-a-bank” or “rent-a-charter.”

New credit report portal would make resolving errors easier for consumers
Advocates wrote to Congress in support of the Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2019 (H.R. 5332). The bipartisan bill directs the three credit reporting bureaus to work together to create one online portal to provide free and unlimited access to credit reports and scores, the ability to more easily initiate and resolve disputes with a credit bureau and to provide access to see who the bureaus have sold consumer data to in the prior two years. One of the biggest issues facing low-income communities is access to credit. In many cases, inaccurate credit information limits low-income individuals from accessing affordable loan products. This can lead to borrowing from high-cost pay-day lenders, or using high-rate credit facilities. This bill places the burden of resolving inaccurate credit information on the bureaus, instead of on the consumer.

Pharmacy benefit managers are driving up drug costs for patients
States, local governments, organizations, and businesses use pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to negotiate lower drug prices for the individuals on their health insurance plans. Three organizations control 85 percent of this market. While PBMs play a crucial role in the drug supply chain, the lack of transparency regarding their practices has long contributed to the rising cost of prescription drugs. The PBM Transparency and Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 5304) will increase transparency, hold pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) accountable, and help lower prescription drug prices. This bipartisan bill will mandate quarterly reports on the costs, fees, and rebate information associated with PBM contracts. This reform ensures employers know the true costs of the services they are paying for and passes on savings to consumers.

Advocates call on Amtrak to end forced arbitration policy
Consumer Action joined a coalition of more than 30 groups in urging the federally-controlled and federally-subsidized Amtrak to remove the arbitration clause it implemented earlier this year for passengers. This new policy means that for any dispute ranging from a customer complaint to a mass casualty crash, passengers and their families are stripped of their right to go to court. Under forced arbitration, Amtrak disputes must be resolved in a secretive, privatized system, replacing and judge and jury with arbitrators.

Congress steps in to overturn DeVos borrower defense rule
In September, the Department of Education released a new version of the "Borrower Defense to Repayment" rule that would make it virtually impossible for students cheated by their college to cancel their student loans. Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Susie Lee have introduced a Congressional Review Act challenge to repeal this rule and restore stronger student protections put in place in a 2016 Borrower Defense rule.

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